Willstrop Prevails In All-Yorkshire Mamut English Open Final
18 Dec 2007
British National champion James Willstrop completed a remarkable hat-trick of international squash titles on home soil tonight when he beat England team-mate Nick Matthew in an all-Yorkshire final of the Mamut English Open at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
Winner of the Canary Wharf Classic in London in March and the Prince English Grand Prix in Birmingham in September, the 24-year-old world No6 recovered from a game down to upset higher-ranked Matthew, the England No1, 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6 to claim the eighth PSA Tour title of his career.
Only days earlier the pair had played alongside each other in India - leading England to a spectacular triumph over Australia in the final of the Men's World Team Championship, to successfully defend the sport's most prestigious world team trophy.
But in the 5-star PSA Tour event, hosted by Sheffield City Council, it was back to being opponents that was to complete an eventful year for both players.
Matthew, born and raised in Sheffield, took an early lead in the first game - but Willstrop fought back to draw level before the home hero clinched the final two points to win the game and establish the opening advantage. In a similar pattern in the second, Willstrop moved ahead - and Matthew drew level before Willstrop re-established his advantage to take the game.
The pace moved up a couple of notches in the next two games - with Willstrop taking early leads, then running away from five-all in the fourth to clinch the match after 75 minutes.
The encounter was the pair's 15th Tour meeting since 2001, with the pre-match career head-to-head tally poised at 7-7. The victory also ended a three-match winning sequence for Matthew over Willstrop - including the US Open final in September, which the Sheffield star won in straight games.
"I've definitely been struggling a bit with Nick of late - he's had the upper hand in recent matches," conceded the tall 24-year-old from Leeds afterwards. "So I'm very pleased to have reversed that today - on a big occasion and in a big tournament in our home county!
"We both had to push - and we knew that - but I just managed to produce the win. I was very pleased with way I played."
Matthew denied that it was better to lose to a friend: "I like him a lot, but I'd rather lose to anyone else, to be honest! There is a massive, if respectful, rivalry between us. We both want to be Yorkshire number one, England number one - and world number one!" said Matthew, now runner-up in his home town for the second time, after being beaten in the 2005 final.
After Matthew overtook Willstrop in the December world rankings, this success in the final PSA Tour event of the year could reverse the situation and see Willstrop back as the top-ranked Englishman in the first list of the New Year.